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Murray hopes Mauresmo split not seen as failure for women

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ROME (AP) Andy Murray hopes his split with Amelie Mauresmo isn’t seen as a failure for women coaching top players.

The British star improved as a clay-court player under Mauresmo but failed to add to his collection of Grand Slam titles.

“It did work. For two years the results that we had were good,” Murray said at the Italian Open on Tuesday, a day after the breakup was announced. “Maybe unless I win a Grand Slam, then maybe ultimately that’s how people may judge whether it worked or not, but when she first came into the team, I was really struggling.”

Murray became the first high-profile tennis player to hire a woman as a coach when he took on Mauresmo in June 2014. He won his first clay-court titles last year in Munich and Madrid.

Murray was asked if he thought the split would hurt the idea of women coaching men.

“When she came on board, my results actually really picked up,” Murray added. “I mean, for me, the time we spent together was positive. It’s just a shame I wasn’t able to win one of the major events, because that’s what both of us wanted.

“Roger (Federer) stopped working with Stefan Edberg at the end of last year because Stefan Edberg wanted to spend more time with his family. … No one sort of batted an eyelid about that,” Murray said.

Mauresmo said Monday that “dedicating enough time along with the travel has been a challenge for me.” The Frenchwoman gave birth to her first child in August and took six months off from coaching.

Murray has also been coached by his mother, Judy.

“So, in my opinion, it’s nothing to do with Amelie being a woman,” Murray added. “It’s the case of it takes a lot of time to do the job well and properly. It’s not easy to do that for four, five years in a row.”

With the French Open starting in 12 days, Murray doesn’t have an immediate replacement.

“I haven’t really thought too much about a new coach,” he said. “It’s something that I will speak to my team about over the next few weeks and try and find something that works. I want it to work long term, so I will take that into consideration as well.”

Having lost the Madrid Open final last Sunday to Novak Djokovic, Murray dropped to No. 3 in the rankings behind Federer. Federer and Murray have the same number of points but Federer has a better record in the big events.

Murray’s performance in Rome represents his only chance to regain the No. 2 ranking ahead of Roland Garros.

“It would be nice if I could get to 2 again,” Murray said. “But if not, then yeah, it’s not something I’m going into this week worrying too much about.”

After a first-round bye, Murray’s opening match at the Foro Italico will be against Kazakh qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin on Wednesday.

Last year, Murray lost in the third round while Federer lost the final to Djokovic.

2-time Wimbledon champ Kvitova wins return from knife attack

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PARIS —¬†Sweat-soaked and still wearing her match outfit, Petra Kvitova was looking for someone to hug as she wandered into the players’ lounge in the French Open’s main stadium shortly after leaving the court Sunday.

She found her father, Jiri, and her brother, also Jiri, who greeted her with warm embraces and joyous kisses on the cheek. Kvitova’s family members rarely attend her tournaments, but this was different – “special” was the word she, and others, kept using.

Less than six months after a knife attack at her home, two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova was back competing, winning the first match of her comeback 6-3, 6-2 at Roland Garros against 86th-ranked Julia Boserup of the United States.

“I’m happy with the game, of course,” Kvitova said, “but I mean, it wasn’t really about the game today.”

Indeed, just being there under a cloud-filled sky at Court Philippe Chatrier was a triumph of sorts for Kvitova, who needed surgery on her left hand – the one she uses to hold her racket – after being stabbed by an intruder in the Czech Republic in late December. She was undecided until late last week whether to even try to play in the French Open.

“For us, it’s amazing. It’s miracle. Not even me or Petra thought she could be ready to come back so soon,” said her coach, Jiri Novak. “The prognosis was, let’s just say, not optimistic.”

During her on-court interview, Kvitova addressed Novak, her family and others in her guest box, saying: “Thank you for everything you helped me through (in) this difficult time.”

Several members of her entourage wore black T-shirts with white capital letters on the front that read, “Courage. Belief. Pojd.” That last word, which is the Czech equivalent of “Come on!” and was spelled with a red heart instead of the “O,” is often yelled by Kvitova to celebrate particularly good shots.

“The belief and the mind, the heart, it’s really important,” Kvitova said afterward. “So that’s … what we try to show everyone. I hope that it will be kind of inspiration for other people, as well.”

There were plenty of opportunities for her to clench a fist and scream “Pojd!” on Sunday against Boserup, who was making her debut in the French Open’s main draw and facing a lefty for the first time.

“She’s one of the nicest girls, and we are all really happy to see her back. After what she went through, it’s incredible,” Boserup said. “So it’s a victory for her to be back on court. It was really special.”

Kvitova began things with a quick forehand winner on the opening point.

“Amazing,” she said. “I surprised myself.”

Kvitova wound up compiling the match’s first 10 winners and finished with a 31-9 edge in that category. She took 15 of the first 20 points en route to a 3-0 lead and never really faced a whole lot of resistance, other than when she saved three break points – the only ones she had to deal with in the match – while ahead 3-1.

When it was over, Kvitova dropped her racket near the baseline and removed her blue headband. As she walked to the net for a handshake, her eyes welled with tears.

“We are happy that she is healthy. The hand is good – and also the head,” her brother Jiri said. “Mentally, she is back.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Venus Williams eases into French Open’s second round after beating Qiang Wang

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In a record 20th appearance at the French Open, Venus Williams eased into the second round with a straight sets victory over Qiang Wang of China.

Williams, who is seeded 10th, saved two set points to win 6-4, 7-6 (3).

The 36-year-old American will play Kurumi Nara of Japan in the next round.